Each night it seems whomever is on the mound for the Houston Astros is capable of a legendary performance. Wednesday was Zack Greinke’s turn in the spotlight.
Greinke twirled the best outing of his brief Astros’ tenure, coming within two outs of his first no-hitter in Houston’s 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Greinke entered the ninth inning having faced the minimum. To that point, a full-count walk to Dee Gordon represented the Mariners only baserunner of the night, and he was quickly erased on a double play.
After a groundout by Tom Murphy to start the ninth, it seemed inevitable Greinke would be the latest Astro to etch his name into the record books.
But a single from pinch-hitter Austin Nola shattered Greinke’s no-hit bid just two outs from history. Another basehit by the next batter ended Greinke’s masterful night and suddenly put the game’s outcome in peril.
With the tying run approaching the plate, A.J. Hinch summoned Will Harris to preserve the lead. And that he did, retiring the final two batters to help the Astros secure a franchise-record 104th victory of the season.
Greinke, who has said before there’s a lot of undesirables that come with throwing a no-hitter, seemed to want this one, anyway.
Greinke maintains a no-hitter comes with some hassle but he wanted this one. pic.twitter.com/QpIpfaMZbm— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) September 26, 2019
Even if he was a bit disappointed, Greinke was sterling in his final regular-season start. He allowed two hits and struck out nine, a personal-best since joining Houston, and moved to 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA in an Astros uniform. Overall this season, he’s 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA. Greinke, along with Cy Young competitors Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, have formed quite the triumvirate atop Houston’s rotation.
Top of Astros rotation:— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) September 26, 2019
Verlander: 20-6, 2.53 ERA
Cole: 19-5, 2.52 ERA
Greinke: 18-5, 2.93 ERA
Greinke was paced by early offense from the top of the Astros’ order. George Springer started the game with a leadoff single. Consecutive run-scoring doubles by Alex Bregman, his 110th RBI of the year, and Yordan Alvarez, whose 1.103 OPS entering the night was easily the highest by a rookie all-time, propelled the Astros to a 2-0 lead just four batters in.
The double by Alvarez marked the fifth straight plate appearance in which he reached base safely.
Bregman, who continues to make a push for AL MVP, recorded his second hit of the night on a two-out single in the third inning and later worked a 14-pitch at-bat for another double to push his average to .299.
Kyle Tucker added insurance for the Astros in the top of the ninth with a solo shot to dead center, his third home run of the season, to extend the lead to 3-0.
That’s now 21 straight games with a longball for the Astros, which extends the club record. Tucker also stole his fifth base in as many attempts earlier in the evening.
The Astros took a pair of 3-0 victories from the Mariners in the brief two-game set to finish 18-1 against Seattle in 2019, the best mark in team history against a single opponent in a season. Houston has won 13 straight meetings with the Mariners.
With four games remaining, the Astros magic number to clinch the top seed in the AL is now one. Their magic number to clinch homefield throughout the postseason is two.
Shortstop Carlos Correa sat out again with lingering back tightness and won’t play in Thursday’s game either.
The Mariners were in danger of becoming the first team in MLB history to be no-hit three times in a single season.
Yusei Kikuchi (6-11, 5.46) pitched well for Seattle, tossing six innings and allowing two runs on six hits. He struck out four Astros and walked none.
M’s rookies Art Warren and Taylor Guilbeau each tossed a perfect inning in relief.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros will travel to Los Angeles to begin the final regular-season series of 2019, a four-game set with the Angels. The recently flammable Wade Miley (14-6, 3.91) gets the ball in the opener for Houston. Miley has lasted more than an inning only once in his last four starts. He retired four batters in those three forgettable starts, each of which came at Minute Maid Park, and allowed 16 runs with exactly zero strikeouts. For the month of September, Miley has struck out four batters, walked five, and sports a 22.09 ERA in 7 1⁄3 innings. In fact, he has a 5.47 career ERA in September/October, nearly a run higher than any other month. Miley is 5-1 lifetime against the Angels with a 2.95 ERA in seven starts spanning 39 2⁄3 innings. Jaime Barria (4-10, 6.43) will make his second straight start against the Astros looking for better results than he got his last time out. Barria surrendered four homers, including two from Correa, and allowed six runs on eight hits over 2 2⁄3 innings Friday in Houston. He’s taken the loss in three straight outings and seven decisions in a row. Barria is 1-3 with a 4.34 ERA in six career starts against the Astros. First pitch Thursday is slated for 9:07 CT.